By Jon Krawczynski, AP Baseball Writer
MINNEAPOLIS -- The mustache isn't going anywhere.
Carl Pavano and the Twins agreed on a $16.5 million, two-year contract Wednesday night, ensuring the popular right-hander who made the 'stache cool again in Minnesota will be back to provide stability to the team's rotation.
Pavano had several offers on the table and surprisingly considered a return to the New York Yankees before ultimately deciding to stay with the club that helped the 35-year-old have a career resurgence in 2010.
"I'm excited," Pavano said on a conference call. "When you go through free agency, there's a lot of big decisions that you have. Obviously I couldn't walk away from the rapport I have with my teammates, the staff and the organization."
Pavano went 17-11 with a 3.75 ERA and seven complete games last season to help the Twins win the AL Central title. More impressive for him, he pitched 221 innings, the second-highest total in what had been an injury-plagued career.
"He was in demand," Twins general manager Bill Smith said. "I know he had a lot of teams that called him. The best thing we both had going for us is he kept saying that he wanted to come back to the Twins and we kept saying that he was the one guy we really wanted to get."
Pavano came to Minnesota in a 2009 trade with Cleveland and has been reinvigorated after four tough seasons with the Yankees. Injuries caused him to miss the entire 2006 season and much of three others, and he made only 26 starts for New York.
He was lampooned in the city tabloids as being fragile and couldn't wait to leave after 2008. Despite all the acrimony, Pavano said he has always kept in contact with Yankees GM Brian Cashman and still holds him in high regard.
"It shows a lot that he was going to stick his neck out there for me if something was going to work out," Pavano said of the possibility of returning.
He'll once again join a Twins rotation that includes Francisco Liriano and Scott Baker, with Brian Duensing, Nick Blackburn and Kevin Slowey likely competing for the final two spots. On a team with so many young starters, getting the veteran Pavano back was essential.
"Carl Pavano has been a leader on that staff since we acquired him in August of 2009," Smith said. "We can't say enough good things about what he has brought to us."
The Yankees swept the Twins out of the first round of the playoffs in 2010, but Pavano ultimately decided on coming back to Target Field for another run. Veteran slugger Jim Thome was one of the biggest advocates for the Twins after he re-signed, bombarding Pavano with text messages beckoning him back to Minnesota.
"He said, 'Listen, I did my job, now it's time to do yours. Let's get it going. We belong in a Twins uniform. That's where we need to be,'" Pavano said.
Once he had all the offers on the table, the decision was easy.
"It's easier to make the decision when it's all in front of you because you really start to find out where your heart is," Pavano said. "When the offer is there and the chance to do it is there, the whole emotion about it is very real. I couldn't put aside the emotions and the feelings and the energy I had for this team. I just couldn't put it aside.
"I'm where I need to be."